The Rising Tide of West Nile

West Nile virus infections top 1000 in US this year

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Cases of West Nile virus have been steadily developing across the country this year, continuing even as fall approaches. This mosquito-spread disease has now caused infections in nearly every US state during 2013.

The latest counts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that West Nile virus infections across the US have reached over 1,000 cases so far during 2013.

Health officials are recommending that people protect themselves from mosquito bites through measures like limiting exposure, using repellent and eliminating breeding spots.

"Repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitos outside."

CDC reported that, as of September 24, there have been 1,135 cases of West Nile virus infections in humans reported in the US during 2013.

Infections in people, birds or mosquitos have been reported in 48 states and the District of Columbia this year. The highest number of human infections have occurred in Colorado (197 cases), California (176 cases) and South Dakota (106 cases).

According to CDC, most people who become infected with West Nile (around 70 to 80 percent) do not develop any symptoms. Around one in five people develop symptoms like fever, headache, body and joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea and rash. This form of the virus usually goes away completely, but sometimes fatigue can linger for weeks or months, says CDC.

In less than 1 percent of West Nile cases, the infection can cause serious brain issues including encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord or tissues around the brain). Symptoms of neuroinvasive disease include headache, stiffness of the neck, confusion, high fever and seizures. 

"About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die," CDC explained.

Of the reported human cases so far in 2013, 529 (47 percent) were considered neuroinvasive disease and 606 (53 percent) were considered non-neuroinvasive disease. Forty-four deaths have occurred. 

CDC stressed that the best way to prevent West Nile is to prevent mosquito bites.

"Use insect repellents when you go outdoors," suggested CDC. "Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection." It is important to always read the labels and follow directions on these products. 

By emptying standing water that may gather in containers outside, people can help block one of the insect's favorite breeding spots and reduce the presence of mosquitoes around the home.

CDC also recommended wearing pants and long sleeves during the period from dusk until dawn — the time of day when mosquitoes tend to be most active.

Review Date: 
September 25, 2013
Last Updated:
September 26, 2013